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Release Older Inmates To Save Money?

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Video published December 11, 2009 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: Joanne Faryon, KPBS reporter and host of "Project Envision," introduces an ongoing investigation into aging behind bars.

— Elderly inmates are among the fastest growing segments of California’s prison population. Inmates over age 55 have doubled in number over the past 10 years and will more than double again by 2022, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Older inmates are two to three times more expensive to incarcerate then their younger counterparts because they require more health care services, according to the LAO.

Currently, California spends $10 billion a year on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which makes up 10 percent of its general fund. If the state, under current sentencing laws, continues to send more people to prison longer, can it afford the costs of housing, health care, and eventually hospice care?

The state of California is under federal court order to reduce its prison population by 27 percent, or about 40,000 inmates, because prisons are so overcrowded they violate prisoners’ constitutional rights. Considering older inmates are statistically less likely to re-offend, the LAO suggests releasing older inmates to save money.

Would you consider releasing non-violent elderly inmates from California prisons?

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Avatar for user 'tschaeff'

tschaeff | December 11, 2009 at 5:26 p.m. ― 7 years, 2 months ago

This is a really good idea to begin taking a bite out of the court order release. I wrote a paper about CA's inmate costs a few years back and the average cost pre inmate turned out to be between $35,000 - $45,000 per year. The cost for any inmate over 55 years of age spirals upward and places a huge financial and logistical burden on the prison system itself.

I know we are all weary of 'handouts' but it seems to me that the money would be better spent supporting those in poverty with free job training and education. I think we need to ask ourselves what the original intent of prisons was; keeping dangerous people away from the general public. Non-violent criminals should pay fines, do community service, and have privileges revoked not thrown away into an extremely desperate and violent situation.

Sadly, though, I don't believe that the prison guard union is going to allow any large releases anytime soon...

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Avatar for user 'rightor1'

rightor1 | December 11, 2009 at 7:53 p.m. ― 7 years, 2 months ago

tschaeff, good comment, however it is not up to the prison guard union CCPOA whether releases take place. Three federal judges have ordered releases over two years of non violent inmates, most of whom shouldn't have been put in prison in the first place.

Our citizen's group, the UNION (United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect) worked night and day for a decade to get a law passed that would release the terminally ill and frail elderly who have families to take care of them. AB1539 was signed into law into 2007, but the California Department of Corrections is releasing no one under it.

The State profits from the human bondage industry and the right wingnuts and all those who feed off it do not want releases to take place. We could be putting the frail elderly, quadriplegics, those with Alzheimers, others who are terminally ill into nursing facilities who have no families. But noooooo. The lawmakers are put into power by law enforcement labor unions. They think it is ethical and moral to punish sick people, which only makes them much sicker.

This is a good point to focus upon because it represents billions in costs that are unnecessary. Some people can afford to care for their family members at home, which would be the right thing to do, but the State still says no, even though AB1539 was passed for this purpose.

The State breaks its own laws and for want of a funded, noisy, voting group to call them out on this, practices from the dark ages continue unabated.

Good work here!

B. Cayenne Bird

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Avatar for user 'ecochicks'

ecochicks | December 12, 2009 at 10:27 a.m. ― 7 years, 2 months ago

Releasing older inmates is a great solution. These older men would like nothing more than to return home and visit their children and grandchildren. My husband is among those over 55 years old, and I would be happy to have him under a home monitoring system if necessary. I would be happy to pay for his medical needs that are not being met in prison. Much overcrowding would be relieved if these older men were released. Statistics show that they are the least likely to re-offend. Even if one needed to be on Medi-Cal, that would cost the state less than the cost to transport them to/from a prison to have a surgery. It just makes sense.

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Avatar for user 'RandyRichards'

RandyRichards | January 12, 2010 at 6:43 p.m. ― 7 years, 1 month ago

Releasing these inmates may simply move the cost onto other programs. Ultimately, someone will pay these costs. As they have been in prison for decades, few will have the resources to fund their own care. This is really reflects our society's problems with healthcare.

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Avatar for user 'voiceforsanity'

voiceforsanity | February 1, 2010 at 5:35 a.m. ― 7 years ago

Of course we should release older non-violent prisoners. To do so, we should REALISTICALLY evaluate whether older prisoners are a danger to society even if their commitment offense was violent, including those convicted of murder. The standard for parole of murderers contained in the law is whether they pose a danger to society. The parole board is not using this standard nor is the Governor. We have abandoned public safety as the reason for incarceration and have devolved to a standard of personal vengeance which is inappropriate for the public to use as policy. Many claim we are a nation founded on Christian principles but we are shockingly primitive in our vengeance oriented criminal justice views and policies. Until we evolve to more enlightened views on rehabilitation and redemption we will continue mortgaging our children's future with outlandish prison costs.

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Avatar for user 'wheelslarbac'

wheelslarbac | September 9, 2010 at 2:21 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Nursing Homes are so bad that the ones without families are better staying
in prison , prison is better then a nursing home abuse and neglect and
highly toxic urine smell, that alone will make you sick.
Almost all disabled say they would rather be in jail or prison then a nursing
home, listen to ADAPT tapes esp 1990 ADAPT on you tube.
The ones with families should be released to their family who will care for
them, as long as they are no longer a danger, that is a good idea to save
The stupid drug laws have most of these lifers on stupid drug laws, they
should end probition and save prison for very violent offenders like
murderers, rapists, pimps, child molesters, bank robbers

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